India is in a state of permanent revolution. The revolution is driven by an ideological zeal that is now beginning to swallow its own children
t has been over a week since a riot-like situation gripped many parts of the country, with young people out on the streets protesting against the new recruitment policy of the army which seeks to enlist new recruits under 21 only for four years and without any retirement pension or compensation.
Earlier, JNU student activist Afreen Fatima’s parents’ home (as per media reports, it belonged to her mother) was bulldozed by the Allahabad (now Prayagraj) police on the orders of UP administration without allowing the family any legal recourse, while they and her sister were jailed allegedly for organising protests against the recent anti-Islam remarks by a BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma and a senior party functionary Naveen Jindal. The country and the world were rocked with protestations to the extent that many Muslim majority nations registered formal protests with the Indian government even when protests had already broken out on the streets of India. The BJP-led government had an amazing duplicitous response.
On one hand it continues to quell the protests in India that have been largely peaceful, with an iron hand. Videos are also going viral of merciless beating of disarmed arrested Muslim protestors, charged under draconian laws like National Security Act (against which there is a long pending demand for removal) and houses of the protestors being bulldozed (a practice borrowed from the Israelis). State administrations have chosen to destroy the homes of poor Muslims despite legitimate papers in places ranging from Khargone in Madhya Pradesh and Jahangirpuri in Delhi to Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The latter has been the most notorious ever since the protests around Citizenship (Amendment) Act began and activists and protestors were penalised for merely participating in those. Notices were sent for recovery of damages, in violation of laws despite repeated reminders from the judiciary (Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court).
On the other hand, seeing economic and diplomatic relationships nosediving, the BJP was forced to suspend its national spokesperson even as many of its cadres and leaders continued to defend her.
While authorities quell protests in India that have been largely peaceful with an iron hand, videos are going viral of merciless beating of disarmed arrested Muslim protestors, charged under draconian laws like National Security Act (against which there is a long pending demand for removal) and houses of the protestors being bulldozed (a practice borrowed from the Israelis).
It did show that the regime that has long considered itself immune to all pressures, particularly from the Western nations, was vulnerable to harsh criticism from the Islamic countries, not least because of a high presence of the Indian Diaspora in those countries.
And yet, the BJP government continues to pillory Muslims in the country. Within days, even as the matter lies before the Supreme Court that had earlier given a stay order against any demolition in the Delhi case, police brazenly indulged in the same mayhem in full view of a visibly gloating television media. The state backed, state generated vigilante justice continues unabated. The resultant justification of mob justice has predictably led to a situation where on an altogether different issue - young job applicants running riot, burning trains and buses, tearing cities apart. The same Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Adityanath, is seen placating the rioters and pleading with them on Twitter to calm down.
The point, however, is not only about duplicitous treatment of protesters by the same government or the duplicitous treatment of the protests over the same issue in the country and outside. The point is how this state of never stopping, breathless, anarchic action is now beginning to bite its own tail. With most of the captured institutions now transiting from being mute witnesses to active participants in this mayhem, this was going to happen sooner than later.
Add to it the government’s economic policies, accumulated loss of jobs without any prospects, a rapid rise in inflation on the back of a falling rupee and its utter failure to manage its own backyard, or for that matter international relations and it becomes obvious that you simply can’t stop implosion for long. It has now acquired a lethal combination where vigilante justice has reached a stage where the so called ‘controlled violence’ against hapless minorities is just one part of the story. There is also a sliver lining to the cloud after all.
But what seems to be more and more evident is that while the police and the state and the media and their assorted institutions have gone rogue, it is pressure from a set of foreign countries that seems to have applied a brake. The question is: can the brake be applied more forcefully, more consistently and for the civil rights of all the cornered people in the country?
The author has been in the development sector for more than a decade and currently works with an international non-governmental organisation based in Delhi. He may be reached at: email@example.com.